New home building in UK needs to address the needs of older people too, says report

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New home building in the UK to cope with the country’s chronic shortage of housing should not concentrate just on the needs of first time buyers and younger people, according to a new report A new report from the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC-UK) whilst the Government’s focus on first time buyers is understandable faster progress in helping these younger generations get on the housing ladder would be made if more energy was put into meeting the housing needs and aspirations of their parents and grandparents. The report calls for more housing to be built by local authorities, a wider range of commissioners of new house building, better rental offers for older people with secure tenancies, more shared ownership options for older people and overall greater choice for older people in general needs housing. The authors argue that the lack of new housing supply has contributed to the rampant increase in house prices in recent decades and this in turn has resulted in housing wealth becoming the principal driver of inequality in the UK. It suggests that providing a better choice of options for older people looking to downsize would unlock substantial equity that could be made available to invest in new homes whilst releasing existing family homes into the market. ‘Finding ways in which local authorities can promote, support, finance and commission new homes will be critical to achieve the Government’s house building targets and in ensuring greater commissioning of homes suitable for older people,’ said Sir Michael Lyons, co-author of the report. ‘We need a better rental offer with secure tenancies and confidence of rent stability to encourage older home owners looking to release capital to provide an income in later years and to help fund housing for their children and grandchildren,’ he explained. ‘The increased opportunities for self-build, of self commissioning that government is promoting could be an attractive option for those who have equity but feel there is a lack of choice to meet their aspirations or those for whom retirement settings do not appeal,’ he added. According to Ben Franklin, head of economics of ageing at ILC-UK, supporting the country’s current and future housing needs must be a key pillar of a new social contract between the state and the individual. ‘For more than a decade we have simply not been building sufficient homes to meet demand. This is having a detrimental impact on the livelihoods and wellbeing of people across all ages,’ he said. ‘Unfortunately this is not going to change any time soon unless we make some radical changes to the system. The UK’s population is growing and is ageing which will only exacerbate the current crisis. In this context, supporting the housing needs of older people can be one important component of a strategy to revitalise the nation’s housing,’ he added. Taylor Scott International

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